UK PM vows focus on food security

Sunak made the vow during a speech to farmers
calendar icon 21 February 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised a new focus on food security on Tuesday, responding to criticism from farmers that agriculture is being not given the same strategic importance as energy and the environment, reported Reuters.

"Food security is a vital part of our national security and recent years have brought home the truth of that," Sunak told the National Farmers' Union (NFU) conference, noting Russia's invasion of Ukraine two years ago prompted a surge in food and energy prices.

Sunak announced a series of measures including increased funding for some farming schemes and the annual publication of a food security index.

Britain, which left the European Union in 2020, now has its own agricultural policy after many years coming under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

"I know the transition from CAP has been frustrating, taken time and I appreciate the perception that we didn't always get the balance exactly right," Sunak, the first prime minister to address the NFU conference since 2008, said.

NFU President Minette Batters, in the run-up to an expected general election later this year, called on all political parties to commit to giving food security the same strategic priority as the environment and energy.

"There is currently an imbalance between environment and food production in government policy. We must see changes this year to redress this before many more farms just simply disappear," she said.

There have been widespread farmer protests across Europe in recent weeks, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Greece, over a range of issues including rising energy costs and competition from cheap imports.

"Here in the UK, we share European farmers’ concerns and frustration," Batters said. "Years of unsustainably high production costs and crop losses because of extreme weather are putting farming families under mounting pressure."

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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